Craig Berube

Vladimir Tarasenko eager to return to Blues’ lineup

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At the time of the NHL pause, the Blues were close to bolstering their lineup with a post-trade deadline addition.

Out since October following shoulder surgery, Vladimir Tarasenko would have been back for the final month of the regular season. The extra time off has allowed him to get back to 100%.

Tarasenko was on the ice Monday as Blues players took part in Phase 2 of the Return to Play plan. Working out in small groups, this is the step that precedes a possible full training camp beginning in mid-July.

“You start slow, you start with the basics, do some exercises where you remember the feeling,” Tarasenko told the Blues website. “I think it’s going to [come back] pretty quick. You work on the basics and move to a harder, harder level. Hopefully when camp opens, everybody will be ready. And we’re going to play to win again.”

Tarasenko dislocated his shoulder in an Oct. 29 game against the Kings and was expected to miss five months. In February he hit the ice for the first time and he nearly rejoined the Blues on a mid-March road trip.

“It’s like a big trade that you make and getting a great player,” said Blues coach Craig Berube earlier this month. “We haven’t had him all year and our team’s been very successful. Now we got Vladdy coming back, he’s a great player for us, he’s done a great job working back, being in really good shape and being ready to go.”

Despite his absence, the Blues ended up with the best record in the Western Conference. Their 94 points earned the one of the top four places in the Round Robin for Seeding along with the Golden Knights, Avalanche, and Stars.

We don’t know if the Blues will get a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title, but Tarasenko is ready to get going.

“The closer you get, the more positive emotions you have, the more happy you are for seeing the boys for the first time, skating with them,” he said. “I was lucky to go on a couple road trips [before the pause] and feel that atmosphere. I’m ready to come back and play some hockey.”

MORE:
Previewing the Western Conference Qualiyfing Round series
A look at the Eastern Conference matchups

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Vladimir Tarasenko fully recovered from shoulder surgery

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Vladimir Tarasenko was close to returning to action prior to the NHL Pause and is ready to play if the 2019-20 season resumes.

The Russian winger required surgery on his left shoulder after sustaining an injury in a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings in late October. No. 91 had three goals and seven assists in the 10 games he played this season.

“He was ready to go,” Blues coach Craig Berube told NBC’s Liam McHugh. “Before we got shut down, he was probably going to be back that week. He did a great job of rehab and taking care of himself. I was really impressed with what he did.”

[RELATED: NHL Power Rankings: The most impressive single season stats]

The Blues currently sit atop the Central Division and Western Conference with a slim two-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche.

“These guys are great athletes. I would say a good week of skating and conditioning work. I think they would probably be in good enough shape to get going again,” Berube said when asked how long it would take his team to get ready after the pause. “It’s probably not enough time but we will be able to do it.”

“We all try to keep in contact,” Berube added. “Our strength coach will send them workouts and things they could do at home. … It’s all about staying healthy and staying in the best shape that you can.”

The Blues hope they will get the opportunity to defend their title and if that comes to fruition, Tarasenko will be in the lineup.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: Schwartz powers Blues past Jets

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NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour continues this week with four matchups featuring some unsung heroes.

The Blues, en route to their 2019 Stanley Cup victory, jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the third period over the Jets in Game 6 behind a hat trick from Jaden Schwartz. Winnipeg rallied back to get within a goal with under a minute remaining, but St. Louis held on to advance to Round 2. Schwartz led the Blues in goals (12) in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs after only scoring 11 in the entire regular season.

An interview by Liam McHugh with Blues head coach Craig Berube looking back at the team’s Stanley Cup victory will also be featured.

Brendan Burke and Ray Ferraro called the matchup from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo.

HOCKEY HAPPY HOUR SCHEDULE ON NBCSN
Monday, April 6

• Jets vs. Blues (2019 Round 1, Game 6, Jaden Schwartz) – 5 p.m. ET

Tuesday, April 7
• Hurricanes vs. Capitals (2019 Round 1, Game 7, Brock McGinn) – 5 p.m. ET
• #HockeyAtHome: Episode 1 – NHL Brothers – 6:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday, April 8
• Senators vs. Penguins (2017 Eastern Conf. Final, Game 7, Chris Kunitz) – 5 p.m. ET
• NHL: Pause and Rewind – 6 p.m. ET

Thursday, April 9
• NHL: Pause and Rewind (Encore) – 5 p.m. ET
• Rangers vs. Kings (2014 Stanley Cup Final, Game 5, Alec Martinez) – 6 p.m. ET

#HOCKEYATHOME: EPISODE 1 – NHL BROTHERS – TUESDAY, 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN
Kathryn Tappen and Sportsnet host David Amber will co-host a 30-minute program about brothers in the NHL. The three sets of brothers interviewed and featured in the program are Eric, Jordan, and Marc Staal; Brady and Matthew Tkachuk; and Quinn and Jack Hughes.

NHL: PAUSE AND REWIND – WEDNESDAY, 6 P.M. ET ON NBCSN
The premiere of a one-hour special, NHL: Pause and Rewind, will take a look back at this past NHL season as well as how players are spending their time off in the current league hiatus. Highlighted segments will include a look at the current top five teams in each conference, reflecting on the season’s milestones, including Alex Ovechkin’s historic 700 goal accomplishment, as well as revisiting the Blues’ improbable Stanley Cup victory last season.

NBC Sports commentators conducting player interviews and sharing #HockeyAtHome social content will also be featured throughout the program.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.

PHT Morning Skate: Panarin, Draisaitl spurring Hart Trophy debates

Panarin Draisaitl Hart
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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• An argument for Artemi Panarin being the Hart frontrunner, whether the Rangers make the playoffs or not. (Blueshirt Banter)

• Travis Yost breaks down more than one conundrum the Rangers face regarding Henrik Lundqvist, and their goaltending in general. (TSN)

• Panarin isn’t the only one getting talked up, as Andrew Berkshire recently did a deep dive on Leon Draisaitl pushing for the Hart. This was posted before Draisaitl’s four-goal, five-point outburst from Monday, but it’s still worth looking at. (Sportsnet)

• Let’s bring that Panarin, Draisaitl, and Hart Trophy talk together with a look at that race. (ESPN)

• The coronavirus is disrupting international hockey events, as the IIHF canceled tournaments and Swiss League postponed playoffs. (The Hockey News)

• Amalie Benjamin offers up a slice of life for Cammi Granato, who is now a full-time pro scout for Seattle’s expansion franchise. Granato explains to Benjamin that “it’s a natural progression,” even if Granato also believes she still has a lot to learn. The profile is part of NHL.com’s celebration of Gender Equality Month. (NHL.com)

• Penguins fans might be feeling worried as their team is mired in a six-game losing streak. Adam Gretz breaks down how this team has responded to similar slumps during the Sidney Crosby era. The basic takeaway: the Penguins bounce back quickly. (Pensburgh)

Justin Williams wishes he had made a bigger offensive impact so far (six points in 16 games) but otherwise feels like himself during his return. He remains a remarkably strong play-driver, particularly for a 38-year-old. (The News & Observer)

• Former Wild GM Paul Fenton stumbled through some missteps, no doubt. The Kevin Fiala trade, however, looks like a deft bit of movement. Now the Wild just need to take the next step and embrace my nickname, “The Fiala Bear.” (Star-Tribune)

• The Canucks are allowing a troublingly high rate of scoring chances on defense. That’s especially glaring whenever Quinn Hughes isn’t on the ice. (Vancouver is Awesome)

• What are Habs GM Marc Bergevin’s plans for the offseason? (Featurd)

• Craig Berube’s blunt way of discussing the Blues ranks as one of his strengths. (St. Louis Game Time)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues beat Blackhawks in a 6-5 barn burner

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What’s the best way to summarize the Blues finding a way to beat the Blackhawks 6-5 on Tuesday? Maybe we should just make the “fanning self” hand motion and call it a night?

This was a wild one from the start, with Brayden Schenn scoring 33 seconds in. Maybe that opening goal implied that this would be an easy one for the Blues, but that was far from the truth. Regardless, St. Louis has won all three of its games against Chicago this season. This marks five straight wins for the Blues overall.

The mark of a good — and versatile — team is to win in multiple ways. Even so, Craig Berube’s facial expression in the moment captured by Getty Images probably captured his mood for much of the night:

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Blackhawks roared back after falling behind early, flipping a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 lead. Jonathan Toews found ways to make subtle picks during those first goals, setting the stage for Duncan Keith to break a 40-game goalless streak, and reach 100 for his career.

Wild get games wildest during the third period

Chicago scored two power-play goals during that stretch, and three overall on Tuesday.

Maybe it was just that kind of night, really, as the Blackhawks went 3-for-4 while St. Louis managed two on four power-play chances.

The seesaw really wobbled during the third period, in particular. Ryan O’Reilly made it 3-3, then Zach Sanford continued his blazing streak to make it 4-3 16 seconds later. That Blues lead only lasted for 1:13 before Matthew Highmore tied it up.

Brandon Saad regained Chicago’s lead three minutes later only for (catches breath for a moment) Justin Faulk to tie it up again 1:12 later.

The above two paragraphs describe a span of five goals during less than six minutes of game time.

A bit more than four minutes after Faulk tied it up, Sanford scored the game-winner for St. Louis on the power play. Phew.

The end result is that the Blues strengthened their Central Division lead, while the Blackhawks saw their playoff hopes fade even more with a regulation loss. Many likely expected the two teams to reach this sort of destination on Tuesday, but the journey was quite unexpected.

Jordan Binnington, Corey Crawford, and Berube certainly don’t want to navigate such a bumpy road most nights, that’s for sure.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.